Porsche LMP1 team principal Andreas Seidl has downplayed reports that the German manufacturer could exit the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of the year, amid concerns over the car’s competitiveness and increasing questions on LMP1’s long-term future.
German motorsports publication Motorsport Aktuell reported last week that Porsche’s current commitment through the end of the 2018 season may be cut short by a year, citing recent struggles with its 919 Hybrid and the inability to roll out with an all-new car for next year.
A freeze of the current LMP1 regulations, and agreement with Toyota to remain with the same monocoque designs through the end of 2019, has reportedly placed the short-term future of the program in jeopardy, with multiple industry sources indicating it could be up for re-evaluation this summer.
Despite the latest report, which came from leading journalist Marcus Schurig, who revealed Audi’s premature exit from LMP1 competition two weeks before it was made official, it’s understood a decision has not yet been taken by the German manufacturer.
Porsche’s Seidl reiterated that they are still moving forward with its 2018 plans.
“I hear these rumors from time to time, but I have nothing to comment on,” he told Sportscar365. “All I know is it’s confirmed for 2018. We’re fully into the development of the ’18 car also.”
Seidl said he expects to begin discussion on the “next period” of the project in the second half of this year, once the 2020 LMP1 regulations are defined.
“That’s the situation right now,” he said. “We wait now for the announcement of the 2020 regulations and I think later in the year we will make a decision about the future.”
Toyota’s increased pace, particularly at the Le Mans Test Day, and expected advantage in this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, reportedly resulted in Porsche holding an emergency meeting to come up with a short-term solution.
It’s understood opting to build an all-new car for next year has been ruled out, from both a financial and timing standpoint, although Seidl said they still have areas that can be improved on its current chassis, which by 2018 will be four year old.
“Even with keeping the basic concept the same, we can still make a huge, huge step each year,” he said.
Should Porsche end up pulling the plug, it could cast serious doubts into the future of the LMP1 class and WEC in general.
Peugeot, which has been in discussions to join the championship in 2020 when new a new set of hybrid-based regulations are expected to be introduced, appears increasingly unlikely to commit due to costs.
The WEC requires at least two manufacturers in the top class per its contract with the FIA, which was recently renewed through 2020.
Representatives from the FIA and ACO, meanwhile, are due to unveil its new set of LMP1 regulations on Friday, despite growing internal concern over the future of at least one of its key players in the class.
Toyota Gazoo Racing team director Rob Leupen said Porsche is a “big help” for them in ensuring tough competition in the class, despite the reduced entry this year amid Audi’s exit.
“Hopefully if they are rumors, they are untrue, and secondly if they are true, we cannot influence it,” Leupen told Sportscar365.
Seidl, meanwhile, said “the most important thing” is to attract additional manufacturers to the class, although as of right now, it appears doubtful, at least with hybrid-based regulations.
“I have to say with the working groups we have had in the last month under the leadership of the ACO and FIA, I think some good decisions have been made,” he said.
“Still, it has to be seen once everything gets announced what the interest is of additional manufacturers.”